By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter
The new season is still more than two months away but work has already started to prepare the St. James' Park pitch for the 2013/14 campaign.
Following the final game of last term against Arsenal, hundreds of supporters have paid to run out onto the hallowed turf as part of the Play on the Pitch scheme.
But no sooner had the final whistle blown after the last match on Saturday evening than head groundsman Andrew Tully and his team were beginning to work their magic to ensure the surface is in perfect condition come August.
"We started on Sunday - all the gear arrived on Saturday night, straight after the last game finished at 6pm, and we got the majority of the outside work done," Tully explained.
"Then on Sunday morning, at about 6.30am, work started to take about 7mm of vegetation, grass and waste off the top and then they added a new product - about 150 tonnes of fibre-elastic product, which is what the pitch is built with.
"That's been mixed in with the harrows and hopefully again today it'll be mixed in twice. But at the moment, the weather's so good that we're going to have to water it down because it's best worked with wet, not dry."
Over the next few days, the pitch will be raked several times and then seeded which will see the surface go from its current brown colour to the more familiar lush green.
This summer, the groundstaff will have more time to go about their work - last year there were Olympic football matches at the stadium to work around - but Tully was delighted with how the pitch coped with a long season.
"Definitely, especially with the Olympics and the European games, and we had several training sessions here too which you can almost class as a game," he said.
"And we had a couple of snow games where we had 100 people on the pitch clearing, which is probably the worst thing for it - 100 snow shovels scraping across it, but to get a game on it has to be done.
"So all in all we stood up really well to one of the biggest seasons for us as games per season goes."
Click here to reserve a season ticket for the 2013/14 season